The out-of-control wildifre near Saamba K’e is showing no signs of slowing down and fire crews are doing whatever they can to try and protect the community.

The latest update from NWT Fire on Monday evening indicated the size of the blaze was estimated at 265,000 hectares and sat an estimated eight km away from the edge of Sambaa K’e at its closest points. The fire has not yet reached the community, but light southeast winds were expected on Monday. That would push the fire northwest, which could cause progression toward the community, according to an update from NWT Fire.

Part of the job of fighting the fire involves trying to prevent the loss of structures. Air tankers have been completing drops on priority targets near the community to attempt to slow growth at the fire’s front as visibility allows, while the structure protection involves continuing to set up and maintain sprinklers to try and stop fire from igniting should flames reach the community.

“These aren’t your regular backyard-type sprinklers — these ones have some power to them,” said Mike Westwick, wildfire information officer with the Department of Environment and Climate Change.

He also said the structure protection work has spanned out past the community near Island Lake.

Two cabins have also been lost and the owners have been notified, said Westwick,

“You don’t ever want to see people lose their property,” he said. “We’re in the business of protecting people and property in the wildfire program, and it is deeply upsetting when things go wrong.”

Westwick said a total of 42 personnel are assigned to the fire, including an incident management team, along with seven crews now onsite, heavy equipment, ignitions specialists, a structure protection specialist, multiple airtankers, and three helicopters.

Several members of the community have evacuated to Fort Simpson; Nahendeh MLA Shane Thompson said on June 2 that 75 people made it to the village and it was done in a timely manner.

“Evacuees were scheduled to stay in the Fort Simpson recreation centre in the gym and arena,” he said. “The village had set up the evacuation centre full of cots. However, almost all evacuees have found other places to stay with family, friends, or other locations in the community.”

The village will be providing meals three times a day at the evacuation centre for the evacuees, he added, while 13 people stayed behind in Saamba K’e as essential staff.

KFN members return home

With the wildfire on K’atl’odeeche First Nation now under control, that means members living on reserve have been able to start returning home as of June 8.

A post to the KFN Facebook page stated that power had been restored to all intact buildings, but phone lines were still being repaired. Water delivery was expected to follow shortly after people began returning.

The Chief Lamalice Complex has been set up as a welcome centre, where residents could fill out resident emergency assistance forms and get help filling them out, receive cleaning kit for their house and receive health and mental wellness support. KFN members are also able to receive breakfast, lunch and dinner every day courtesy of help from United Way NWT.

The Dene Wellness Warriors, led by Roy Erasmus, along with support staff from the NT/NU Council of Friendship Centres were scheduled to begin working with the community today.

Westwick said the main reason was of work done by fire crews in ‘mopping up’ around the fire.

“They went around stirring and soaking and made great progress on that front,” he said. “What they’ll be doing now is seeking out hot spots by using infrared technology and continuing cleaning up. A lot of the big work has been done, but there are still things to watch out for.”

Those who have returned will have to look out for such things as root systems which may have been damaged during work, he added.

“We want residents to be mindful of unstable trees and be cautious,” he said. “We had a buncher picking up logs and taking them to other places, but not all of them were picked up because they couldn’t be moved. We’re advising residents to stay away from those areas.”

James McCarthy

I've been hanging around the office as the sports editor for the better part of the last 16 years. In August 2022, NNSL Media decided to promote me to the managing editor's position, which I accepted after...

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